- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2003

They are the modern-day version of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, two stars linked by comparison throughout their careers who transcend their teams in New York and Boston.

Jeter and Nomar. That’s all you need to say. Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra are the head of a generation of power hitting shortstops that can be traced to Cal Ripken, who changed the thinking you had to be slick-fielding banjo hitter to play the demanding position.

Throw in Alex Rodriguez and you have a trio of All-Star shortstops, all about the same age (Nomar is 30, Jeter is 29 and A-Rod is 28). But while A-Rod probably is the best of the bunch (47 home runs, 118 RBI and a .298 average this year), he is buried down in Texas, taking his $250million to play for a losing franchise. Which leaves …

Nomar and Jeter. The comparisons will be drawn between the two shortstops often when the Yankees and the Red Sox take the field tonight at Yankee Stadium for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

Jeter was Rookie of the Year in 1996, Nomar in 1997. Jeter finished second to Nomar for the batting title in 1999. This year Nomar hit 28 home runs, 37 doubles, 13 triples and drove in 105 runs while batting .301. Jeter just missed out on a batting title, hitting .324 (in 119 games, missing the first six weeks of the season with a dislocated shoulder) with 10 home runs and 52 RBI. He was beaten out by Boston’s Bill Mueller, who had one at-bat in the final game of the season as a pinch hitter and finished with a .326 average.

Jeter and Nomar. When a San Francisco man was indicted for selling fake autographed bats on EBay several years ago, there were two kinds of bats he was peddling — Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra.

Nomar and Jeter. When Nomar left the team for the last game of the season to watch his fiancee, Mia Hamm (power couple, just like Joe and Marilyn), play in the Women’s World Cup, Boss Steinbrenner said Jeter wouldn’t have done it.

“Jeter would not have left his team,” Steinbrenner told the New York Daily News. “But that’s not a criticism of Garciaparra. If I had a fiancee who looked and played like Mia Hamm, I would’ve done the same thing.”

Nomar laughed off the comment. “I had the support of the team,” he told the Daily News. “It was nice of them to let me go.”

That is one of the differences between Nomar and Jeter. Nomar is wound tight and measures every word he says. He never comes across as relaxed or, to take it a step further, sincere.

Jeter, though — while no chatterbox — is much more relaxed and comfortable with the attention that comes with being a star in New York, though not in the neurotic way that consumed DiMaggio. He may be careful about choosing his words, but you get the feeling if one of the Boston owners took a similar shot at Jeter he wouldn’t laugh it off. He would defend himself, as he did this winter when Boss Steinbrenner suggested Jeter was more interested in New York nightclubs than the New York Yankees.

Jeter and Nomar. Here’s another difference between the two: It may not be quite fair to tie their team’s achievements to their own abilities, such as the debates over who was better, Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain, but Jeter knows nothing but winning. He has played in the postseason every year since his rookie year and was often the catalyst on the Yankees’ four World Series championship teams.

Nomar and Jeter. When asked about the comparisons among himself, Nomar and A-Rod, Jeter said, “We’re different players. They’re power hitters and RBI guys, where I look to get on base and score runs. This is what you play for. I don’t play for stats. I play to win. The more times you get to play in October, the more opportunities you get to win.”

This is the feeling I get from comparing the two, and again, it may be a product of their teams — Jeter plays to win. Nomar — who is a great player and a solid citizen and all that — plays not to lose.

Yankees manager Joe Torre was asked yesterday about the comparisons between the two shortstops.

“They are great players for different reasons,” Torre said. “They have different talents, but they certainly know how to rise to the occasion. Jeter probably can’t match up in a lot of ways to Nomar, maybe his arm, his power and all that stuff. But Jeter, on the other hand, does things that I really can’t put down and figure out what it is. But he always manages to come up big for us in big games.”

Jeter and Nomar. At the end of the series, one of them will have top billing.


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